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Local bipartisan effort to boost life sciences aims to maintain region's edge

Concerns about money are raising the legislative roof at the federal level. Meanwhile, jobs and innovation are flowing out of the US and into China, India and the EU. The US biopharmaceutical industry is undergoing major changes. Hundreds of small and medium sized firms require intensive capital to conduct research. Major players in the industry, including Sanofi-Aventis, Merck, Pfizer and AstraZeneca, have cut more than 43,000 jobs nationwide as of September 2010. Health care reform adds more uncertainty to the industry at large.

Rather than attempt to allocate nonexistent federal money for life sciences research and development, Representatives Chakah Fattah, Allyson Schwartz, and Pat Meehan, along with Senator Robert Casey Jr., have a plan to provide money on a national level for the life sciences industry though tax incentives. On July 25, the bipartisan group introduced The Life Sciences Jobs and Investment Act of 2011 at the University City Science Center, a locus of life science research.

"This legislation is about inventing the future," says Casey. "In Pennsylvania, we don't wait for events to overtake us."

Southeastern Pennsylvania's political leaders have a vested interest in life sciences, according to Schwartz, who pointed to the concentration of teaching hospitals, medical research and life science entrepreneurs here.

"It's one of the aspects of the American economy where we are still leading, but we won't continue if we can't compete," said Meehan, who stressed that the bipartisan effort will have a much better chance of passing. Schwartz added, "It's not an easy time to get anything done in Washington."

The legislation, introduced on July 25, doubles the credit from 20 to 40 percent for the first $150 million of life sciences research and development. Also, to encourage domestic productivity, companies that bring foreign profits back to the United States will enjoy a reduced tax rate, as long as those funds that are used to hire domestic scientists and researchers and make new investments in American research and development.

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Kristen Fitch

Kristen Fitch

Director, Marketing